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GETTING STARTED -PART 5- THE FINAL STEPS OF 3D PRINTING

featuredimage

In our previous articles in “Getting started with 3D printing series”, we have provided a step-by-step guide to 3d printing from the moment you have chosen the appropriate hardware. We explained how to generate your CAD (Computer-aided design) model for those wanting to design the 3D object themselves, as well as for the users that prefer to download object files from other designers. Once you have managed to create or repair your STL file, you need to feed it into the slicing software. The slicing software converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. Software is the second most important thing when it comes to 3D printing. In our last article we provided a detailed selection of the best free slicer software required to prepare and execute a 3D print. Today we will finally discuss about the actual printing and the surface finishing.

THE PRINTING PROCESS

Now that you have your ‘g-code’, the 3D printer has its marching orders on exactly how to execute the necessary movements to realize your print. As explained, the g-code enables the printer to see the STL file as a list of coordinates for the print head to follow for depositing material. There are two ways in which this is accomplished. If the 3D printer is linked to your PC, the data stream goes from your PC to the printer via a cable. The main drawback with this method is that the print will fail if the connection breaks off or the PC crashes. If the 3D printer is linked with an SD card, the data stream flows from the SD card to the printer. This is a stand-alone operation and is less prone to fail if the other hardware fails. Make sure you have set up your device properly. Each device has its own prerequisites for how to use it for every new print, such as adding the materials the printer will use. When the moment comes for the actual printing, the whole procedure is mainly automatic. The thickness of layers is about more or less 0,1 mm each. Depending on the size of the object, the 3D printer and the materials employed, the procedure could take from several hours to several days.

How to 3D print and how to smooth your 3D prints

THE POST PROCESSING

Once you have removed carefully your printed object, you may need to clean your print’s surface. It may happen so that after an object is 3D printed it will require some post-processing, depending on the quality of your printer and of the filament you used. Certain printing techniques require internal supports to be built for overhanging features during construction. These supports must be mechanically removed or dissolved upon completion of the print. Once you remove the support structure and any potential overhang or stringing, your print will be ready, but the surface finishing will probably not be optimal yet. There are several techniques to smoothen the surface of your prints, such as sanding, chemical vapor, coating, painting, etc. The choice of each finishing technique depends largely on part geometry and the material you used. Different methods allow for different textures and appearances.

Smooth your 3D prints

THE TECHNIQUES

A common finishing technique for the FDM objects is sanding. Sanding is an inexpensive, effective, and proven method to reach a smooth finish. It is consistently the most widely used finishing technique for 3D-printed parts. It’s recommended to be avoided for the tiny parts. Some printable polymers such as ABS, allow the surface finishing to be smoothed and improved using chemical vapor processes. When it comes to coating, it can be both decorative and functional. For instance metal coating gives the appearance of production metal or plated parts and provides a hard, wear-resistant surface with reflective properties. Painting 3D printed parts is a vast world of acrylics, enamels, sprays, and airbrushes. After sanding, you may add an initial coat of primer and inspect the surface again for imperfections. Primer is a special type of paint that adheres strongly to the part and provides a uniform surface for paint to bond with. After the specified drying time, the part is ready for painting. There are several tips for a smooth paint job and it’s always preferable to finish with a clear coat to protect the paint job. Some additive manufacturing techniques are capable of using multiple materials in the course of constructing parts. These techniques are able to print in multiple colors and color combinations simultaneously, and would not necessarily require painting.print in multiple colors and color combinations simultaneously, and would not necessarily require painting.

Painting 3D printed model

CONCLUSION

We just completed our  “Getting started with 3D printing” series! We hope that our posts inspired more people to get into designing for 3D printing and that they will do a lot of exciting work. 

We will stay committed to our mission, making 3D printing available to everyone. Since you're now ready to start, we will continue our research to provide you with the latest news,tips and tricks on 3D printing. Our next articles will cover a great variety of topics and will be located on our blog page under the category "All you can know". In case you need to freshen up your memory on the basics, our previous "Getting started" series can be found on our blog page or you can download our free ebook for a more expanded version of the series.

GETTING STARTED WITH 3D PRINTING

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TRIPODMAKER EXHIBITED AT AM EUROPE 2016

Tripodmaker AM europe 2016

28-30 JUNE AT RAI AMSTERDAM

The first edition of Additive Manufacturing Europe took place on the 28-30 June at RAI Amsterdam, one of the best-connected exhibition centers in Europe. This pan-European show covered all business applications for 3D printing, from prototyping to manufacturing. 

The conference program featured some of the most prominent names in the 3D printing/ additive manufacturing sector alongside a wide range of case studies focused on different sectors – healthcare (28 June), aerospace (29 June) and automotive (30 June). Tripodmaker could not miss this exciting opportunity to exhibit its solutions and share its expertise.

This is the business-to-business show for the 3D printing industry with products, launches and live demonstrations. It is the best way to see all the options together in one place. 

tripodmaker AM europe 2016

Some atmosphere pictures from the show:

FILAMENT LINE LAUNCH

Spectra PLA

Spectra PLA is a tough, easy to use high grade PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) type of filament, ideal for 3D printing. It is slightly modified and this makes our PLA tougher and less brittle. PLA has a low shrinkage factor and will not deform after cooling. This material is a biodegradable plastic made from renewable natural resources and one of the most popular materials for 3D printing.

Spectra filament

Spectra X-ABS

Spectra X-ABS is a next-generation ABS filament. Zero warp technology implemented onto the ABS, creats a filament with far less cracking, proven near perfect interlayers, reliable bed adhesion (tape & other adhesives) while improving the mechanical properties making X-ABS extra strong. It is the ultimate ABS replacement that prints strong and beautiful parts on any FDM 3D printer without the common headaches associated with regular ABS like warping & horrible bed adhesion. X-ABS is the perfect material for strong objects that require an high impact tolerance.

spectra x-abs

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GETTING STARTED -PART 4- 6 GREAT SLICING TOOLS AND HOSTS FOR 3D PRINTING

sliced-stl

When it comes to getting started with 3D printing, you need to choose the right hardware for you. Tripodmaker has a mission to make 3D printing accessible to everyone. In our previous articles in “Getting started with 3D printing series”, we have offered an overview of the 7 different types of additive manufacturing processes and how to choose the appropriate technology based on your needs. 

By now, you may already have chosen the right 3D printer for yourself. We have explained how to generate your CAD (Computer-aided design) model in order to get started with 3d printing. For those wanting to design the 3D object themselves, we offered a review of free and paid online software. For the users that prefer to download object files from other designers, we offered a selection of websites with 3D models database. Once you have managed to create or repair your STL file, you need to feed it into the slicing software. The slicing software (also called a slicer) converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. Software is the second most important thing when it comes to 3D printing. In today’s article we will provide a detailed selection of the best free slicer software required to prepare and execute a 3D print.

Tripodmaker's prisma slicer

Once you have created or obtained your STL file, you need to feed the STL file into the slicing software. If you remember, almost all additive manufacturing processes work by creating stacked layers that are a cross section of the part you want. To build the part you must slice the geometry in software. This is hard work, but the intersection with a triangle is very easy. This makes creating the path for each layer so much simpler. So, the slicing software (also called a slicer) converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. “G-code” is the common name for the most widely used numerical control programming language in which people tell computerized machine tools how to make something. The "how" is defined by instructions on where to move, how fast to move, and what path to move. The slicing software can either be open source or specifically designed for your printer model. An open source slicing software provides greater flexibility with the settings and you might have to tweak those for your specific printer model. A closed source slicing software is easier to use because there are less settings to adjust, and its default settings are adapted for the specific 3D printer in question. Here is a list of the best free slicing programs: 

SLICER SOFTWARE

PRISMA:

HTTP://WWW.TRIPODMAKER.COM/PRISMA

Prisma is a cloud-based slicer platform that is perfectly configured for the Tripodmaker professional 3D printer. It comes pre-set with the appropriate dimensions of the Tripodmaker's print bed and it includes specific settings which allow you to start right away. The slicer settings of Prisma are quite simple. For instance, in terms of printing speed, you can choose between normal and high. The infill settings are limited to hollow, normal, strong and solid. The Library tab offers a practical feature, the possibility to store all your previously used 3D models and to display them with a preview image. To sum it up, Prisma’s main focus is to make 3D printing easy, especially for someone new to slicing. 100% adapted to the Tripodmaker 3D printer, it still offers the user a certain freedom and guarantees at the same time optimal performance and print success.

Prisma slicer on mac

SLIC3R:

HTTP://SLIC3R.ORG/

Slic3r is an open source slicer software. The code and the algorithms are not based on any other previous work and aim for readability and maintainability. Slic3r, being a true non-profit community project, allowed the community to experiment with several original new features that have become common thereafter such as multiple extruders, brim, micro-layering, bridge detection, command line slicing, variable layer heights, sequential printing (one object at time), honeycomb infill, mesh cutting, object splitting into parts, AMF support, avoid crossing perimeters, distinct extrusion widths, and much more. All of these features were first introduced in Slic3r and are now part of the commercial software out there. The current version of the 3D printing software includes multiple views so users can better preview how their models will 3D print. Some of its many advantages are its easy setup and the compatibility with several Hosting programs. It supports multi-model printing, can split and save STL files and can also handle big STL files.

tripodmaker slicing tools

KISSLICER:

HTTP://WWW.KISSLICER.COM/

KISSlicer is a fast, easy-to-use, cross-platform program that takes 3D files (STL) and generates path information (g-code) for a 3D Printer.  The free version has all the features needed for the 3D printing enthusiast who uses a single-head machine.  The pro version essentially adds multi-head and multi-model printing. It is compatible with several Hosting programs. In our opinion this is one of the best slicer that is out there right now. This fast slicing software will save you a great deal of time and energy. It offers adjustable printer speed, smart multi-head temperature control and can handle overlapping meshes. Thanks to its adaptive sparse infill and its adaptive support it can also help you save material. It offers high quality prints and the best surface finishing. With minimal settings and easy preview it’s perfect for those getting started with 3D printing. Just keep in mind that it only supports multi-model printing in its payed version, it can't split and save STL files and can’t handle very big STL files either.

kissslicer tripodmaker

CURA:

HTTPS://ULTIMAKER.COM/EN/PRODUCTS/CURA-SOFTWARE

Cura is the standard slicer software for all Ultimaker 3D printers, but it can also be used with most other 3D printers. It’s fully open source and can be extended via a plugin system. For people new to 3D printing it will do everything you need it to and for experts there’s a world of advanced settings to tinker with. This 3D printing software allows you to manage the most important 3D print settings in a clear interface. Start in “Basic” mode to rapidly learn how to use it, where you can choose reconfigured printer quality settings. When you need more precise control over the print quality settings, switch to over “Expert” mode. You can also use Cura as 3D printer host software for direct control over your machine. Keep in mind that the 3D printer needs to be connected to the PC during the process. The biggest drawback for Cura, if any, is that when you get a rare slicing bug you would better get around it than wait for a fix!

cura

3D PRINTER HOSTS SOFTWARE

There is no best hosting program as some people claim. The best thing is to get a couple of them and use them for different functionalities. We believe it is not interesting to print complete objects through your hosting software by “streaming” the “g-code” to your printer. The data can’t move fast enough from your computer to your printer. This could therefore result in poor quality of your printed object. We suggest that you save your “g-code” files on an SD-card. In this way, you are able to transfer your “g-code” file in one operation to your printer, through a USB connection or on an SD-card. It’s the best way to avoid streaming issues and your entire “g-code” file will be saved on your printer’s memory. There are quite a few hosting software but we propose our two favorites (both free):

REPETIER HOST: 

HTTPS://WWW.REPETIER.COM/

The Repetier-Host is a simple to use host software, which is compatible with most 3D printer firmware around. It can be configured for Delta printers like the TripodMaker too. You can add and position your STL files on the simulated print-bed and slice them. For slicing you can use the integrated Slic3r and Cura functionality. Repetier Host actually merges the 2 slicers in one software and allows you to link your computer to your printer to easily monitor temperature, progress and to manually control your printer. Just use "Slice & Load" and the job gets delegated to the slicer, showing its output in the log window. In the G-Code editor you can change or analyze your code. The host runs on Windows XP or higher, Linux, and Mac OS X. You also get a 3D representation of the slicing result.  

BEST SLICERS FOR 3D PRINTING

PRINTRUN:

HTTP://WWW.PRONTERFACE.COM/

Printrun is a 3D printing host software suite which talks to your printer and handles the printing process. It allows you to control the printer with a navigation cross. Printrun has become the default control software for more than half of the 3D printers used by enthusiasts due to its powerful yet simple to use interface called Pronterface. It is pre-packaged with Slic3r and is able to control all RepRap and Makerbot based 3D printers. Compatible with all kinds of slicers, it is entirely open source and freely available for download. It offers a 2D representation of the status during printing. 

BEST SLICERS FOR 3D PRINTING

GETTING STARTED WITH 3D PRINTING

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GETTING STARTED -PART 3- FREE STL FILE FIXING WITH NETFABB BASIC

printscreen5

In this article, we will discuss STL file fixing. In our last article we explained how to generate your CAD (Computer-aided design) model in order to get started with 3d printing. For those wanting to design the 3D object themselves, we offered a review of free and paid online software. For the users that prefer to download object files from other designers, we offered a selection of websites with 3D models database. The next step of making a 3D printing design is to understand STL files and how to create a good one. Are you struggling with faulty STL files? Most of them aren't immediately ready for printing. Models seemingly perfect on screen may be filled with defects which make 3D printing difficult, if not impossible. Go ahead and read this article explaining how to easily fix your CAD files and how to prepare them for the slicing software! 

WAIT A MINUTE! WHAT IS AN STL FILE?

The STL file (StereoLithography File) is the standard language of the prototyping world, the file format that all geometry creation tools write, and that all prototyping systems read. In a 3D print file, the object is constructed out of a set of triangles, also known as mesh. These triangles surround the volume of the object. The denser the mesh (i.e. the higher the amount of triangles) the more detailed the surface of your printable objects will be. The build time is 100% related to the volume and the build height of the object, it is not related to the density of the mesh. The details have no effect whatsoever on the build time. The more detailed the mesh, the bigger the file becomes, because there are more meshes and therefore more coordinates inside the file. This is of course harder to process for most slicer software. In Tripodmaker we are proposing Prisma, a cloudbased slicer platform perfectly fitted for your Tripodmaker professional 3D printer. It is easy to use and results in perfect prints. Prisma is more powerful than a regular computer software and therefore handles even the most complicated job easily. 

An STL file can be created with most of the CAD programs or with a scanner and contains the data of the triangles. If triangles (i.e. surface data) are missing or overlapping in the STL file, you might not be able to print your 3D object. In that case the STL model needs to be fixed, by plugging the hole or addressing the overlap, before continuing. You can fix the STL file with a free application like Netfabb Basic. When you make a prototype it will be an exact copy of your STL file. If there are errors in your file, you may not be able to get a prototype made. This is why we consider it is a good investment to take some time and understand STL files and how to create a good one. In this post we are going to go through a simple example, showing how to use this great free tool, to automatically repair STL files for 3D printing. It is quite fast and you just need to be able to find your way around the user interface!  

TUTORIAL: REPAIR STL FILES IN NETFABB BASIC

Here is a detailed and clear tutorial by Thomas Sanladerer, showing how to prepare and fix STL files that would otherwise cause problems during 3D printing. All big CAD software like Solidworks or Inventor, but also Sketchup, OpenSCAD and Blender can export STL files. Like we said, the STL file defines the surfaces of your part. The more complex your parts are, the more can go wrong when your program tries to decide how to arrange those triangles, to make them as similar as possible to the original part. Modern slicers can automatically work around some of these errors but we highly recommend that you do these repairs by yourself since these can often introduce artifacts that will only show up once the part is printed. Another common problem with printable files is that they are often not oriented properly, so unless you want to make heavy use of support material, you should check that the part you are going to print has a large, flat surface that can stick to the build platform and is oriented in the right direction.

For this job, we are going to be using Netfabb Studio basic, which is a popular free tool for 3D printing. In fact, the professional version also includes a slicer. The process we will follow will basically be as follows.

  1. Load your file and check Netfabb's preliminary analysis
  2. Perform Repairs
  3. Apply repairs to your file
  4. Export the repaired file as a new STL

1. LOAD YOUR STL FILE AND CHECK NETFABB'S PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS

So let’s get started. If you haven’t installed it yet, Netfabb basic for Windows, Linux and Mac is available for free at their websiteAfter installing, you will need to register it using your email address. To open up a file, choose 'Open' under the 'Project" menu in Netfabb.  It will look like this.

When opening an STL file, Netfabb performs a preliminary analysis to determine if there are issues that could cause problems during 3D printing. The most common issues include holes and triangles with invalid orientations. You can rotate the view while holding the right mouse button and zoom in and out with the mouse wheel. In the bottom right corner, Netfabb will show you the dimensions of the part you just opened. This is important to check as STL files are stored dimensionless. RepRap tools generally assume those units to be millimeters. However, some programs use inches or centimeters when exporting, which will result in parts that appear way too small. To fix that, we can use the “scale” tool, which is up here.

 

Use a scaling factor of 25, 4 if your part was exported in inches, or 10 for centimeters, then hit “scale” and double-check that the reported dimensions are correct. 

Now, you might have noticed the little warning icon at the bottom of your screen, which indicates that your part still has errors in the data. If you do not see the red attention warning, congratulations, your file is very likely ready for 3D printing and nothing further is needed.

2. PERFORM REPAIRS

If problems are found, you will often see the errors as red spots on your part. The best way to deal with these is by using the “Automated Repair”, which usually manages to get almost every file into a printable shape. To start, click the red cross on your toolbar and select “Automated Repair”, then choose the “Default Repair” and hit “Execute”.

At this point you'll notice that another 'layer' is created underneath the 'Part Analysis'. The triangular mesh is now shown on the model and new options and information are available in the lower pane. Press 'Update' to see a list of different errors. Now, select 'Automated Repair' and then choose 'Default'.

Netfabb will now process a series of repair algorithms in order to make the STL file printable. You can follow up these steps by clicking on the Repair Scripts tab in the lower right of the information pane. This will probably take some time. The more detailed the mesh, the longer it will take. A status bar in the lower right corner will show progress.

 

When the repair process is complete you can again press the 'Update' button under the status tab. You should see zero border edges, invalid orientations and holes. If your part is a single object it will likely indicate the preferred shell. Not optimum multiple shells will not usually cause printing problems. You should also visually verify that your model still looks the same as the original one. In some cases, Netfabb automated repairs may create solids where in fact a hole was intended. This is rare but you should still check visually.

At this point, the file will usually print just fine. If the “Automated Repair” didn’t pick off all errors, you might want to try to “Remove Degenerate Faces” option in the actions tab. Choose a tolerance of about 0, 01 and hit ok. This will completely remodel your file and give you another chance that the “Automated Repair” picks off all errors, so run than again. 

3. APPLY REPAIRS TO YOUR FILE

We're not done yet as we still need to apply the repairs to the originally loaded file by pressing 'Apply Repairs' in the lower right corner. This removes the analysis and repair layers and fixes the original rendering. You should normally see the original green rendering without the red attention warning. You should also see a volume calculation. Now hit “Apply Repair” then “Remove Old Part”. The last step is orienting the part, which is very simple in Netfabb. Use the “Align to Bottom Plane” tool and double-click the side of your part that you want to stick to the build platform.  

 4. EXPORT THE FIXED STL FILE AS A NEW STL

Since we started this process to create a clean STL file we now need to create a new, repaired file. Make sure the part is selected and green, then click “Part”, “Export Part”, “STL” and choose where you want to save the STL. Netfabb will automatically create a filename composed of the original with 'repaired' appended so you don't have to worry about overwriting your original file. If successful, instead of a large red 'x' you will see a green check mark.  So that’s the whole process of preparing a file for the slicer! You should now run through this process for every part you print. We promise that once you have figured it out, it’s super-fast to do as well. Congratulations, you now have a printable STL file!

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StqAtQIR3Bs

CONCLUSION

Once you have managed to create or repair your STL file, you need to feed it into the slicing software. The slicing software (also called a slicer) converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. Stay tuned for our next article and find out more about the slicing software. We will provide a detailed selection of all software required to prepare and execute a 3D print. We hope that you have found this article useful!

GETTING STARTED WITH 3D PRINTING

FOR THE IMPATIENT READER, FEEL FREE TO FIND MORE IN OUR FREE EBOOK!

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TRIPODMAKER REVIEW: BLACK EDITITON

tripodmaker review

Yesterday, the guys from 3D Printing for Beginners did a Tripodmaker Review of our latest Tripodmaker Black Edition. You should definitely check out what they wrote on their blog post. You can read it here.

We have already received many questions based on their blog post that we wanted to clarify to our readers here.  

DOES SHIPPING OF THE PLEXI PANELS OFTEN GO WRONG?

The answer: Not any more

Shipping of the plexi panels has been a pain at the launch a few months ago. Within the regular box, shipping goes terribly wrong. This is why we currently opt to ship the doors separately in a dedicated packaging, separate from the printer.

This package is way lighter and can be handled in a more gentle way, and not with brutal force. As mentioned, our device is rock solid and build to last, this means it is not a box to do a walk in the park with and requires some heavy lifting.

DIMENSIONAL ACCURACY IS IMPROVED

We changed our calibration procedure, creating prints within +/- .15 mm of tolerance. This is something you'll have to take our word for it =)

THE STRINGING AND X-Y-RESONANCE TEST FAILED, BUT WHY?

The answer: The reviewers received a prototype of the machine and there have been several firmware and software updates since then. To get a review out for you as soon as possible, this was the only possible way of working.

At the time of testing, our Prisma software was not up and running. This means slicer settings were not 100% optimized yet when compared to our standard Repetier Host set-up. There the user has a certain freedom to operate regarding temperature and speed settings. 

But let's be honest, the guys from "3D printing for beginners" know what they talk about. So how could this go wrong?

Well, stringing is not an easy thing to tackle, and often requires a combination of settings, like acceleration of the retraction, specific movements before hopping, acceleration and jerk for travels between two spots where material should be deposited, and of course the temperature setting.

Same goes for x-y resonance. Rigidity of the frame is one factor, but speed, jerk and acceleration make or break the final results of every printer.

While the temperature is a setting the user can change to fix the stringing, the other parameters like retraction, acceleration and jerk are not included in the printer menu. We have seen that this only leads to confusion or frustration with our customers.

As tests were performed by 3D Printing for Beginners somewhere October - November 2015, our demo device was still fitted with the old firmware set-up.

The acceleration and jerk during printing was set too aggressive, resulting in x-y resonances. Then again, the acceleration of the printer travels was to slow, allowing the filament to ooze and string heavily.

At the moment, printers running software version 0.92.8i should not be suffering from such sever troubles. 

SOME BIGGER PICTURES

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